Earlier this month is was announced the Hallmark Channel is to partner with author Sherryl Woods to produce a TV series centred on her Chesapeake Bay novels published by Harlequin. It’s not clear from the report whether this is actually Harlequin handling the deal, or Woods’ agent (presuming she has one) or a direct arrangement between Woods and Hallmark.
The details are irrelevant to us as indie authors. So why are we running this item?
Because while there have always been film and TV deals from books, this sort of thing is happening more and more, and not just among trad-pubbed names.
Indies should constantly bear in mind this is a digital revolution, not just an ebook revolution. It’s not only ebooks and audio-books that are going digital. Production costs for film and TV are also plummeting as digital technology develops, making films and television programmes cheaper, easier and faster to make.
Simultaneously the number of channels and outlets available to distribute TV programmes and films is growing by the day, not just over the airwaves (that is so last century) but across cyberspace.
Today Amazon UK and Amazon Germany launch Prime services for TV and film downloads. It’s been a long time coming and will undoubtedly boost KindleFire sales. Of course the US has been enjoying this service for a long while now. But Kindle countries like France, Italy, Australia, Brazil and Mexico are still out of the loop,
As with books, while many publishers and distributors (not least Amazon) are still structurally contracted to territorial and geographical borders, there’s no reason in principle why a TV programme or film cannot be as widely available as an ebook – that is to say, to anyone with a smartphone, tablet, phablet or other computer device in the world with strong internet access.
Publishers are just coming to terms with the idea that world rights can literally mean that. Producers in other media won’t be far behind.
Current talk on the tech blogs is about 5G, the next generation of internet access, where a complete film will download in a blink of an eye. And who knows what realms of science fiction 6G will bring to life…
TV and film production companies are growing like topsy, and are looking for content. So far as we know Sherryl Woods isn’t a teleplay writer and won’t be writing the telescripts for the Chesapeake series Hallmark will broadcast. But she’s supplying the content.
You could be too. Yes, it helps if you have a top-name agent to contact film and TV producers to present your work for big or small screen adaptation. But it’s not a prerequisite. And especially among the smaller and newer production outfits there’s a desperate shortage of good ideas coming forward.
Nor is it a prerequisite to have sold millions of copies of the book before you can interest a producer. Yes, that will get their undivided attention, but plenty of film and TV productions have no prior history at all. It’s about the concept.
If you have a great idea and can prove an audience liked the ebook version of that idea you’re already half-way to an option (whereby a production company pays you a non-refundable fee just to stop anyone else grabbing the rights while they look into it further).
And you don’t need to limit yourself to production companies in your own country. While a thriller set in New York or LA is obviously best adapted to the screen by a production team in the US there’s no reason why an historical novel or series set in France or Italy cannot be produced just as easily by a production team in France or Italy as by a production team in Australia, the UK or America. At a production level it’s just about costumes, countryside and horses, after all. Just think “spaghetti westerns”, or the British TV series Robin Hood, which was actually filmed in eastern Europe.
And while a Bollywood studio might struggle with casting for a film about the American Civil War many other successful ebooks might be adaptable to local conditions. Many thrillers, historical novels and mysteries, for example, could be tweaked to be set pretty much anywhere. And of course for fantasy and sci-fi where the emphasis is on CGI it could be made pretty much anywhere. Entire films and TV series could be created in someone’s bedroom!
Amazon is leading the way right now with fan-fiction ebooks in KindleWorlds, whereby they arrange with the producers of very successful TV, film and other intellectual properties to let indie authors write their own versions and get paid for it.
Let’s hear it for Amazon. This is probably the most innovative thing they’ve ever done. A fantastic idea.
But here’s the thing. Just as Amazon takes ideas and develops them, so can and will other retailers. We can expect plenty of copycat KindleWorlds initiatives in the near future, and these will be useful additions to the indie armoury.
But here’s the thing. You don’t have to wait.
If you adore a particular film, TV series, or even video game, and think you have a novel in you based on the content, put together some ideas and approach the rights owners. No need to wait and hope it might one day join the growing number of properties Amazon is sub-letting for indies to chomp on.
The rights owners will be as aware as anybody of the low production costs and ease of distribution for ebooks that could bring htme a lucrative new income stream and new exposure.
Don’t sit around hoping to get lucky. Make your own luck. Before someone else beats you to it.
That last line is worth repeating: Don’t sit around waiting to get lucky. Make your own luck. Before someone else beats you to it.
If your ebook has sold in telephone numbers in the US or the UK but you can’t get a sale two months in a row in France or New Zealand, and don’t even know how to get your books to the market in the Philippines or Thailand (If not, shame on you! Go back and read the EBUK archives!) then don’t sit there sulking. Do something about it!
Divest yourself of the Indie Old Guard mantras that all publishers are the spawn of Satan and will rob you blind. Try reaching out to the hundreds of thousands of innovative small publishers, micro-presses and even bigger publishing houses in far-flung countries and offer them a digital deal.
In the olden days it was the huge production costs of printing a book and the logistics of distribution that meant publishers took on very few new authors and brought out very few new books. But digital has changed all that.
Set to one side the indie mantra that you must at all costs hold on to your ebook rights. What, your ebook rights in Thailand and Malaysia? Your ebook rights in Argentina and Mexico? Your ebook rights in Sweden and South Africa?
While we constantly remind everybody how you can get your ebooks to these markets on your own we also constantly stress that these sales will be significant collectively. Not so much individually.
Taking your #1 best-selling ebook in the US and sticking that same ebook with the same cover and blurb in an ebook store in the Philippines or Paraguay, in India or Indonesia, is just the first step. If you want to make a serious impact in foreign markets – especially selling an English-language title in a non-English-speaking country – then you need to customise. More on this in future posts.
For those who haven’t got the time, wherewithal or inclination to produce custom versions of their ebooks for specific overseas markets, why not do a deal with savvy local publishers in those countries whereby they will do all that for you?
It’s not going to impact on your sales at home if you sell your Thai ebook and audio rights to a Thai publisher and your Malaysian and Indian ebook and audio rights to a Malaysian and Indian publisher, or the translation rights for both the ebook and audio rights to a small press (or even a big one) in Indonesia.
No, you won’t be seeing 70% royalties, but you might get 35%, which is as much as Amazon will pay you for a sale outside the Kindle countries anyway. And you’ll have a local small press team optimizing your book for the local market. Their local market. Which means you’ll have a good chance of selling well.
Do that over a few dozen countries and those 35%s will soon mount up. And the more your book gets international recognition the more likely other small or even big publishers will come offering to translate for their domestic markets.
Remember, as the global ebook market grows local publishers will shft more and more to digital-only, where they can poduce and put out books for a fraction of the ost of print.
Plus you’ll likely pick up more sales from your other titles still stuck in the DIY easy-access channels as more readers discover you.
If you’re planning on Going Global In 2014 don’t miss out on the incredible opportunities opening up. Think outside the book.